Monday, August 1, 2016
We spent the day in the office. But the fun began when we went to the airport Monday Evening to meet 21 new missionaries from the States. There were only two sister missionaries and the rest were Elders. It is always an exciting time when we meet new missionaries. One of the missionaries, Elder Howland, is from Castle Rock, Colorado and was one of Paul’s Priests when we was the Young Men’s President in his Ward. This is the largest group we have or will see in the mission. With 21 missionaries, there was at least 63 pieces of luggage. We had rented two buses to haul them around, but there wasn’t enough room in the bus for the luggage so it was tied on top. It was quite a sight.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
We had new missionary training today. In addition to the 21 north Americans that came yesterday, we had an additional 6 Latinos that came this morning, one was from Montevideo, Uruguay. It was fun meeting and visiting with him. Sister Bell and I went through the 10 commandments for good missionary health, first in Spanish with the Latinos (because the north American missionaries were very late) and then with the North Americans in English. Sister Bell talked to a couple of the new missionaries that she had concerns about their health, but all of them seemed to be doing fine, so her stress level decreased considerably. We spent all morning and part of the afternoon with them. We love being there when they receive their assignments. Their trainers come into the room and the President introduces the trainer and then announces the new missionary. They give each other hugs and everyone claps and hollers. It is a lot of fun.
But unfortunately, just before this was going to happen, we got a call from a sister missionary in Leon that she had fallen and thought her arm was broken. Sister Bell sent her to the AMOSCA hospital. This hospital used to take our insurance, but currently they have a problem with AETNA and won’t take the insurance. So we have to pay in cash. Depending on how bad the arm was, it could be very expensive and we knew the Sisters didn’t have that much cash. So we left for Leon (about 1.5 hrs north west of Managua), with money in our pockets. Fortunately, when they did an x-ray, they found that the arm was not broken. They had enough money to pay the doctor and x-ray costs, but didn’t have enough money for the brace and medicine. So when we got there, we paid for the brace and medicine, and reimbursed the sisters for the doctor and x-ray costs. We then took them to dinner and when we realized they were going to Managua for the leaders training on Wednesday, we offered to take them. They accepted and we hauled them to Managua after dinner. They were very delightful to visit with (Hermana Meza de Guatemala and Hermana Perez de Dominican Republic) making our trip very enjoyable. We got home about 10:00pm.
We eat at a little restaurant close to the hospital. A cute little waitress waited on us. She asked if I was the new mission President, which gave us a clue that she was a member. She admitted she was when we asked her but was inactive. She works during the church meeting on Sunday and her husband is not interested in going to church. She does go when they have conference because it starts at a time she doesn’t have to work. We encouraged her and gave her a big tip.
When we were getting our food, big plates of chicken, salad, fries, tortillas, rice and a relish, a Canadian stopped by our table and asked us what it was we were eating.
Since we had so much food, I offered my plate to him, which he graciously accepted. He sat at the table next to ours and we talked. He is in his mid to late 30’s and travels for a living. Actually, he lives to travel. He said he works as a teacher, mostly in international schools, saves his money and then travels. He spent a lot of the past 10 years in Asia and is now expanding to Central America. He travels alone. Sister Bell and I talked a little about him and his life style. Although on the surface it sounds fun and exciting, we can’t believe that he is truly happy. He did admit he is tired of traveling alone and gets lonely, which is why we believe he was so eager to visit with us, although the free dinner probably made it easier to continue talking with us. We wondered what kind of difference he was making in the world and if he were to die today, would anyone care. One of the driving forces in our lives is the desire to help make the world a better place. That is what brings joy and happiness.
Wednesday, July 3, 2016
Today, we spoke at the zone leaders conference. With so many leaders going home, there was a lot of changes. We have been blessed to have worked with so many of these young people, either those who were ZLs or those who have become ZLs. There was great strength, enthusiasm and love in the room.
This is from Mom – I shared the parable of the slippers (I think it is pantuflas in Spanish). Scott gave me the gift of a cleaning lady for my birthday. She comes every two weeks. The day she came, we were gone from home from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm – a long day. When we opened the door, the house was spotless. We had two choices. We could walk in with our shoes on and muddy the clean floor, or we could prevent that from happening by removing our shoes and putting on our slippers by the door which were clean and only for the inside and walk into the house. A simple action could prevent the floor from getting dirty. I likened this to the mini-lessons we have been giving the leaders to share with the missionaries at zone and district meetings. They are mostly simple things to do, but they prevent injury and illness and allow the work to move forward at a faster rate because the healthy missionaries are more productive. I then shared the statistics that gastrointestinal illnesses have been decreasing since we started reminding them of the things they need to do to prevent these illnesses through trainings and mini-lessons. For example, two weeks ago we had 13 missionaries with GI illnesses and last week we had only 6. I then thanked them for all they do, and encouraged them to continue with the mini-lessons, especially as they teach the 27 new missionaries that we welcomed yesterday. These leaders are the best young men and women you will find anywhere in the church.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
We spent the morning in the office catching up on reports, paperwork and various other things. We went to the distribution center to pick up garments for some members in Esteli (at the Koellikers request) and then to the Colonia for food. We hosted the Lee’s for dinner and a movie. We watched Evictus about Nelson Mandela. I enjoy this movie every time we watch it. I am so impressed with President Mandela. He was in prison for 27 years and came out without bitterness and hatred. He was forgiving and showed tremendous compassion and wisdom as he unified the country. We need more Nelson Mandelas.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Sister Bell slept in until 7am this morning. She must have been tired…. We spent the morning in the office. Then the Lees invited us to their house for a birthday lunch. That was very nice of them. After lunch, Sister Bell and I went to the National Museum of Culture for a little P-Day excursion. It is housed in one of the old parliament buildings. They had 9 rooms of artifacts, history and art. We had an English Speaking tour guide. It was very interesting seeing old bones, pottery, paintings and statutes.
Saturday, August 6, 2017
Happy Birthday Elder Bell
Today, Sister Bell taught Carelys and her sister their second piano lesson in Trinidad. Wilbert Narvaez bought three keyboard stands so we gave one to them. They had bought another table, so we felt bad that they went to that expense. However, we figure they can leave one table at their house and another with the Elders (who live next to the church) and not have to carry tables/stands back and forth. Carelys practices more than her sister and therefore was better prepared, but both girls are doing great.
We stopped at Burger King in Esteli and headed to Ocotal. We dropped off another keyboard stand with Sister Willes and Sister Gould and then headed to Somoto.
I had a meeting with President Alaniz and the missionaries. We discussed organizing their leadership in the Branch using the missionaries and one other Melchizedek Priesthood holder. I suggested he calls 2 counselors, a branch clerk, an Elder Quorum President and a Young Men’s President. President Alaniz was working on calling a new RS presidency. So I outlined the process for him to follow to accomplish this. With these callings, he could begin to have Branch Councils, which will help him greatly. After our little meeting, we held a Priesthood Preparation meeting. We had good attendance from the branch, with 5 young men and adult men in attendance, besides the branch President, missionaries and our wives. We talked about the Aaron Priesthood, the offices and duties. I taught the lesson. If find that I can speak and understand better when we are talking about gospel topics, but still struggle when we talk about other subjects.
After this meeting, we had a couple of hours before the Friendshipping meeting. So Sister Bell and I drove up the highway (closer to Honduras, which is only about 20 kilometers from Somoto), found a secluded spot, had a snack and skyped with Steve and Paul. We live in a marvelous time, when from remote places in the world, we can talk and see our children, thousands of miles away.
For the Friendshipping (hermanimiento) meeting, we met in a home of a member. Several of her daughters attend. I found out that most of her daughters are not members yet. Only one daughter and son have been baptized. They seem to enjoy the meetings and participate in the meetings, but have not made the commitment. Elder Galo gave a wonderful lesson about receiving answers to prayer, just what they needed. My personal take is that they don’t have a strong desire to change and therefore, are not fully committed to change and follow the inspiration they would receive. We need to ask in faith, with a sincere heart and real intent. President Nielson teaches that real intent means that we are willing and wanting to follow the spirit, to take that next step, no matter what. We need to be willing to act. Without that, we will not get an answer to our prayers.
We took the Elders, all 4 out to eat and then headed to Esteli. We arrived at the Koellikers about 9:30pm.
One of the missionaries in Somoto is Elder Howland. He was one of Paul’s Priests when Paul was the Young Men’s President. He is a good missionary. He took Spanish in school, so he has a good grasp of the language. In fact, he conducted the Hermanimiento tonight. He knows the people’s names and is not afraid to interact with them. He seems to be very happy. It is truly amazing since he has only been in the mission less than a week.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
We spent the day in Pueblo Nuevo, a new city we had not been in before. We worked with Elder Reinoso, who is from the Dominican Republic and Elder Arias, who is from Guatemala. Sacrament meeting started at 10am. We arrived a little late because we missed the turn off the main highway and drove another 15 kilometers before we realized we had missed the turn. When we arrived, we called the missionaries. They gave us directions, but as usually happens when Latinos give directions to gringos, especially old gringos that don’t have a great grasp of the language, we went right instead of straight and ended up in the wrong place. Fortunately, Pueblo Nuevo is not very big, so we kept driving around, talking to the missionaries, who by this time were out walking the streets looking for us. About 5 minutes later, when we found them, we were only a block from the Church (actually it was just a house where the group meets).
We were about 5 minutes after 10 am. The members were quietly sitting in their chairs waiting for the meeting to start. We were unprepared for that. All the meetings we have attended start anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour late. There were about 15 members, 2 investigators and 1 visitor from Managua. They also held a gospel principles class. We then visited a new member; a sister and 4 daughters who were baptized. They lived outside of town, in a mud house, with a dirt floor. Two of the girls were twins, turning 9 on Monday. They were very shy, so shy they would not look at us, smile at us or even smile. They hid behind their mother. They were a very poor. It takes them 40 minutes to walk to church, but they do.
We loved Pueblo Nuevo. It is a very clean city, cool, and surrounded by mountains. Many of the men rode horses, in fact it seemed that there were more horses than dogs…. That is probably not true, but it seemed to be true. The people were friendly and although their numbers are few, they are excited about the gospel. Elder Reinoso and Elder Arias are wonderful missionaries, hardworking, spiritual and love the people.
We bore our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting. We also visited 3 perspective Elders in their homes and set up a priesthood preparation class for next Saturday. We felt very good about our time there.
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the Koellikers and then headed for home. I find that last part of the trip, from about Sebaco to Managua are the hardest. I have tried of driving by then and just tired. I am always very tired when we get home and grateful to get out of the house. Sister Koelliker made a giant chocolate chip cookie with a smiley face on it for Elder Bell’s birthday. What a special treat. We love those Koelliker’s.